Pain and suffering are undeniably part of the human condition. Sadly, we live in a world where wars, crime, violence, and hate all exist. For the most part, our minds are resilient in the face of trauma, but there are times when the stress becomes too overwhelming.
Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition that can prolong the intense suffering, but nowadays we have psychiatric methods that can help in preventing or treating this disease. You owe to it yourself and to your loved ones to know the available options so that you can always be prepared against PTSD.
How Does PTSD Occur?
When people perceive threats, the fight-or-flight response activates. This mechanism, which has physiological and psychological components, tries to prepare people to take action in dealing with the threat, either through confrontation or escape.
In many cases, the response stops once the threat passes, but in some cases, the perception of danger persists or recurs. Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs when the resulting response is strong enough to impact the person’s life adversely.
PTSD, like many mental illnesses, is thought to be a combination of various physical and psychological factors. Hence, treatment methods for PTSD are not straightforward. However, conventional treatments can usually be classified as belonging to one of two categories: cognitive behavior therapy and medication. As the psychological aspect of treatment comes more from the prior, cognitive behavior therapy will be the focus of this discussion.
Known as CBT, cognitive behavior therapy seeks to treat mental illnesses by focusing on the observation and modification of behavioral patterns. CBT is a long-term treatment lasting for around 3-4 months. It aims to teach people the skills that give them the ability to manage their symptoms. CBT is an active form of treatment, as its effectiveness depends on the level of engagement shown by the person involved.
One form of CBT is exposure therapy, which involves exposing the person to the traumatic trigger in a safe and controlled environment. Through gradual exposure, the person eventually becomes desensitized to the trigger, reducing the stress response to more manageable levels.
Another form of CBT is cognitive restructuring, which tries to correct distorted beliefs that the person may hold. The overwhelming trauma can affect how the person remembers the event, inflating the sense of fear and danger. Cognitive restructuring tries to make people take a more realistic view of the situation, empowering them to fight back against the overwhelming stress.
As for prevention, the way forward is not yet clear-cut. As mentioned earlier, PTSD is suspected to be influenced by myriad factors, so figuring out which elements to control to prevent PTSD from manifesting is indeed very difficult. That said, there are promising techniques that can help prevent traumatic experiences from promoting the onset of PTSD.
One possible technique is more of a mindset than a particular series of steps. Instead of blocking thoughts related to the traumatic experience, it might be better to process them as they pop into your mind before letting them dissipate. By taking a more active approach in dealing with these disruptive thoughts, you give yourself more control over the situation. Your mind also gets a chance to move on by realizing that the perceived threat is already neutralized, whereas continually ignoring it only prevents your psyche from moving on.
Another technique involves early treatment, given soon after the person experienced the trauma. Dubbed as collaborative-care intervention, this method emphasizes early counseling and administration of cognitive behavior therapy, along with constant monitoring. It is a multidisciplinary approach that seems to lead to better outcomes, as people given collaborative-care intervention do have a reduced risk of developing PTSD.